“Kanyashree Prakalpa” (Kanya means daughter, Shree means prosperity) is a unique end-to-end ICT driven Conditional Cash Transfer programme- aims at improving lives of millions of adolescent girls having poor socioeconomic background through Educational, Social, Financial & Digital Empowerment. It has so far changed lives of 4.2 mn adolescent Girls in 4 years.
Each day, marriage of girls below the age of 18 affects more than 41,000 girls globally. Almost half the world’s child brides live in South Asia. While India ranks as 12th in international rankings, in absolute terms the country has the highest number of child brides in the world. (UNICEF, 2014). Situation in West Bengal, one of the most populous states in India, child marriage continues to be a norm even a decade after India enacted the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act of 2006. The state has an adolescent female population of 6.1 million (Census 2011), and ranked fifth highest in the country when it came to the prevalence of child marriage, with almost every second girl a child bride (54.7%).
Although surveys show that there is a downward trend in prevalence over the last few decades, the decline is very slow and has a grossly negative impact on development. Once, Prevention of Child Marriage Act (PCMA) 2006 enacted, the Dept of Women Development and Social Welfare and Child Development (DWCD), Govt of West Bengal saturated the state with anti-child marriage campaigns spreading the message of prevention, and endorsing enforcement of the law and its penal provisions for adults aiding and abetting child marriage. However, it quickly became evident that legal prohibition and social messaging are largely ineffective in addressing child marriage. For one, India’s multiplicity of formal and religious laws complicates the issue of what constitutes the ‘appropriate’ age of marriage for girls. Secondly, discriminatory attitudes towards the girl child, socio-cultural norms and poverty combine to perpetuate child marriages in West Bengal.
Under this circumstances, Govt of West Bengal, India, launched “Kanyashree Prakalpa” in October, 2013. Recent study reports of World Bank also corroborate the rationale of “Kanyashree” as it predicted the economic cost of child marriage is pretty high & globally, by 2030, gains in well-being for populations from lower population growth could reach more than $500 billion annually.
The core objectives of Kanyashree Programme are simple and focused- it aims to ensure that girls stay in school and delay their marriages till at least age 18. It uses a social safety net mechanism that has shown a high degree of success in transforming the lives of children and adolescents in several countries in the world. It has two conditional cash transfer (CCT) components:
I. The first is an annual incentive of INR 750/- to the girls in the age group 13 to 18 years (studying in Class VIII equivalent or above) for every year that they remained in education, provided they are unmarried at the time.
II. The second is a One-Time Grant of INR 25,000/-, to be paid after a girl turns 18 but before she reaches age 19, provided that she is engaged in an academic or vocational pursuit and is unmarried at that time. The term ‘education’ encompasses secondary and higher secondary education, as well as the various vocational, technical and sports courses available for this age group. Given that children from socioeconomically disadvantaged families are more vulnerable to child marriage, the programme is open only to girls from families whose annual income is INR 1,20,000/- or less. For girls with special needs, orphans and girls in Children’s Homes the income criterion is waived. Girls with special needs, but in a class below class VIII, are also eligible for the annual scholarship.
To reinforce the positive impact of increased education and delayed marriages, the programme also works to enhance the social power and self-esteem of girls through a targeted behaviour change communication strategy including adolescent-friendly approaches like events, competitions and Kanyashree clubs, and the endorsement by strong women figures as role models to promote social and psychological empowerment.
The service delivery under Kanyashree has been mandated to be completed within a stipulated time period under West Bengal Right To Public Services Act. Because of the Scheme’s goal of empowerment of girls through eradication of child marriage and promotion of education for girls, it directly contributes to Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 1, 3, 4, 5, 8 and 10. E-Governance, convergence and partnerships in implementation contribute to SDG 9, 16 and 17. The impact of the Scheme is proposed to be further strengthened through the scheme’s graduation strategy, which is being designed to ensure stronger inclusion of out-of-school adolescent girls in the Kanyashree CCT component, career counseling and financial literacy programs, parental counseling, and facilitation of beneficiaries’ transition from secondary to tertiary education so that they may graduate into sustainable livelihoods and employment.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
Kanyashree Prakalpa has a unique scheme design: the Kanyashree scheme is a model Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) Scheme which was designed keeping in mind operational issues like, appropriate targeting of beneficiaries & direct benefit transfer. The World Bank also advocated effectiveness of CCTs in Indian context.
Unique Strategy: Kanyashree aims at achieving its goals by:
- Incentivizing them to continue in education for a longer period of time, and complete secondary or higher secondary education, or equivalent in technical or vocational steams
- Disincentivising marriage till at least the age of 18, the legal age of marriage, thereby reducing the risks of early pregnancies, associated risks of maternal and child mortality, and other debilitating health conditions, including those of malnutrition.
- Setting the foundation of their financial inclusion through direct bank transfers in their names
- Linking adolescent girls to other benefits and opportunities through convergence.
What is the current status of your innovation?
Presently, the programme is being operated through 15,826 no of Institutions across the State. So far, 9.4 million applications received and 9.0 million applications sanctioned for Cash Transfer. Around 4.2 million Girls are benefited in a span of 4 years. Approximately, INR 41.25 billion have been disbursed in the form of Direct Benefit Transfer.
Collaborations & Partnerships
Convergence partner departments are: Finance, School Education, Higher Education, Tech Education, and Minority, Health & Family Welfare, Sports, Youth, Mass Edu and Information and Cultural Affairs promote and support the programme in their own domains, and are an integral part of Monitoring Committees at state & district levels b) Technology Partner: The NIC, Min of Electronics & IT, is the technology partner & responsible for the setting up of the e-governance mechanism of the programme.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
Development and Social Welfare and Child Development (DWCD), Govt of West Bengal gave final shape to Kanyashree Prakalpa after detailed study of evaluations of initiatives across India and elsewhere, and through intensive consultations with appropriate stakeholders, including adolescent girls.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
The Scheme has enrolled almost 4.2 million girls aged 13 – 19 years since October 2013. Of these girls, approximately 1.2 million have achieved this goal. Each of these girls has a bank account in her name, and over 9.0 mn cash transfers have been disbursed since the scheme’s inception.
Government data reports that while the average annual drop-out rate in upper-primary schools has reduced from 5.93% in 2012-13 to 5.53% in 2014-15 for boys; for girls the figures drop from 3.47% in 2012-13 to 2.87% in 2014-15 (UDISE). An independent assessment conducted by Pratichi Institute, India shows that the enrolment of girls between the ages of 13 and 18 years has shown an overall growth of 11% points from 79.8% (Kanyashree Baseline, 2014) to 91.4% (Pratichi Assessment, 2016). Significantly, for the single year ages of 16, 17 and 18, the improvement in enrolment in rural areas is higher than in urban areas.
Challenges and Failures
The main challenge in implementing Kanyashree has been to ensure that each of the scheme’s approximately 4.15 million beneficiaries, their families and communities, stakeholders in 16,000 and more educational institutions, and local, district and state-level administration remain focused on the key purpose of the scheme: prevention of child marriage; and that all steps taken, when dealing with associated issues, have positive messaging. Although focusing on the poorest of the poor, being associated with Kanyashree has become a matter of prestige; and this has been ensured by a) Political support of the highest order b) Continual and consistent public and media attention on the empowerment of girls c) Ensuring that all administrative personnel are provided regular high-quality capacity building to ensure consistency of implementation and public advocacy.
Conditions for Success
Kanyashree Prakalpa is a flagship scheme of the Government of West Bengal, and is entirely state-government funded. Political ownership and leadership from the top and a huge response from girls has made the scheme vibrant and sustainable. The scheme is backed by committed political support, with the Chief Minister of West Bengal personally endorsing the scheme’s focus on empowerment of girls, and providing timely inputs into the scheme, including designing the scheme’s logo, naming the scheme, assuring its financial sustainability and ensuring that due attention is directed to the scheme and its concerns though public appearances on Kanyashree day.
Scalability & Replicability: The technical architecture of Kanyashree Online 5.0 is a very robust and scalable one. It is based on Open Standards and relevant national master directories have been used while designing the system which has enabled it to be very easily replicable across the country. It follows the national e-gov standards as well to ensure easy replicability. Financial Sustainability: The huge response from the bottom-up, and the leadership and commitment from the top has made the scheme vibrant and sustainable, and the Government of West Bengal looks on the costs incurred as an investment in the education of adolescent girls. Kanyashree has generated great enthusiasm and ownership at the grassroots level. Because of the manner in which the scheme is being portrayed by the government, being a “Kanyashree Girl” has become a matter of pride, of entitlement, and of identity.
Leadership & endorsement at the top, here the Chief Minister, is the key success factor for such programmes! The experience of designing and implementing the scheme emphasizes the need for public servants to be crystal clear about the situation they are attempting to address, the objectives of their initiatives and how they are to be implemented and measured. By targeting a core developmental concern – child marriage of adolescent girls - and using it to address the various needs of the population concerned - education, health, nutrition, physical and psychological development, sexual and reproductive health, life & employable skills – it brings all relevant government departments on one platform and allows for a holistic development for this vulnerable population. Another instance of responsiveness is the fast-tracking of the development of Kanyashree’s egovernance mechanism, Kanyashree Online- wbkanyashree.gov.in, which has moved from transactional to transformational e-governance.
The scheme’s design and e-governance mechanisms have been recognized as best practices in India and internationally, and have won several prestigious awards. These are:
• Winner, United Nations Public Service Awards 2017 (Category 1: Reaching the poorest and most vulnerable through inclusive services and participation)
• Finalist in GEMTech Awards 2016 hosted by UNWOMEN & ITU
• United Nations WSIS Prize 2016 Champion in e- Government Category (WSIS Action Line C7) • CSI-Nihilent Award for e-governance, 2014-15
• Skoch Winner Award and Order of Merit 2015 for Smart Governance
• National E-governance Award 2014 – 2015 awarded by the Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances, Government of India
• Manthan Award for Digital Inclusion for Development (South Asia and Asia Pacific) 2014 under the category E-Women and Empowerment
• West Bengal Chief Minister’s Award for Empowerment of Girls, 2014